Perhaps it is commonplace to want things in black and white. When things are in black-and-white we don’t need to deal with certain ambiguities. It certainly simplifies the complexities of life. The problem with this is a black and white world can not embrace color. And look how much beauty enhances our world because of color. The readings of today are colorful readings.
Acts of the apostles witnesses to the persecution which arose of those early believers. Recall the martyrdom of Stephen. Because of this incident, the community of believers disperses to some quite distant places and peoples; even to the Greeks. Because of this, psalm 19 is fulfilled, "Their message goes out to all the earth". This first reading ends with our ancestors finding their new identity apart from Judaism. We are no longer Jews who believe in Christ, our identity has been changed. We are now, "Christian". This does not happen in Jerusalem, it happens in Antioch, a place to which Jesus never went. Interestingly, we don’t find our identity in the places where Jesus was, we find them in the person of who Jesus is.
Colorization continues in the Gospel. The Jews push Jesus for a black and white answer. "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you really are the Messiah, tell us so in plain words." And Jesus’ palette is filled with multitudes of colors. He invites them to look at the consistency of his life and his works, to draw conclusions for themselves. He paints metaphors of sheep who understand and follow. They even seem to know the color, of the tone of his voice.
Paradoxically, the Gospels show us that those who can ponder the colors of Jesus’ palette, and the way the divine artist paints the portraits of life, are those who listen and understand and accept his message. They are the ones transformed, and they hold a certain amount of joy in their heart. Contrast this to the numerous stories by which the biblical people in the Gospels insist on reducing the colors of life to merely black-and-white. Even the story of the wealthy man concludes with, "He went away sad…" In these books of "Good News" these small minded thinkers merely end up reducing the value, beauty, and significance of life.
Throughout this day I would invite you to reflect a little more deeply on the colors of life in the people around you, and your participation in the palette of the divine artist. What happens to you when it feels like you are the one holding the palate of colors? How do you treat those who also have color palates? What impact do those who only have black and white have on you? And what happens to you when you look down and discover that your palate is black and white?
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the staff at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.